Film screening to shine spotlight on youth suicide prevention
A panel following the film will feature four experts
When Greg Hudnall was the principal of a high school in Provo, he got a call that would change his life. Police wanted him to identify the body of a boy who had killed himself.
“When I got done, I literally threw up and I made a vow that I would do everything I could to prevent suicide,” he said. “That was 1997. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Hudnall went on to found HOPE4UTAH, a Provo-based organization that helps communities rally for youth suicide prevention. And he is among the experts featured in the KUED documentary “Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide in Utah,” which will be screened in Park City on May 9 as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, organized by the local mental health nonprofit Connect Summit County.
Following the screening, Hudnall, along with three other experts who appear in the film — Douglas Gray, a doctor who studies suicide at the University of Utah; Kimberly Myers, suicide prevention coordinator for the state of Utah; and Paul Dymock, an instructor at the University of Utah’s College of Social Work — will participate in a panel discussion about the issue.
Shauna Wiest, executive director of Connect, said it’s the first time the four of them have participated together in an event. She called it a “truly exceptional opportunity” for parents and teens in Summit County to learn about an issue that has decimated the state. According to the Utah Department of Health, the suicide rate in Utah has nearly tripled in the last decade.
“We just feel that it’s really important, given that statistic, for the kids in Park City to understand that there is hope and that you don’t have to take your own life,” she said. “There are resources out there than you can get involved with if you’re feeling upset.”
Hudnall, who has been a key figure in efforts that have drastically reduced the teen suicide rate in Provo, is hopeful the screening and discussion will be enlightening for teens and their parents.
“The key is the education,” he said. “It’s not going to prevent every suicide, but what we hope it does it start to plant the seed (of education). Most mental illnesses start between the ages of 10 and 14, and you’ve got kids going through the education system and their teenage lives with undiagnosed, untreated mental illnesses. What a screening like this does is, if I’m a parent with a child who’s struggling and I see this, all of a sudden my eyes are open to something new.”
Hudnall added that people in Summit County should be encouraged to see several organizations and governmental bodies uniting to tackle the issue of mental health, and by extension, suicide. Provo, he said, went from averaging two to three youth suicides a year to a nine-year streak without one because of partnerships like the ones forming in Summit County.
“When you have everybody come together, it’s amazing how the resources and the energy really change that paradigm,” he said. “The strength and the power is in the collaboration.”
Wiest, for one, is encouraged by the progress that has been made so far. Connect expects to double the participation from last year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and is aiming to have at least 1,800 people attend the more than a dozen events planned through the beginning of June.
“What we’re hoping to achieve is a greater awareness,” she said. “We want to promote a greater understanding of mental health in Summit County, and we’re doing this through these very persuasive speakers who are coming. We’re not just showing a film. We’re bringing people here so people can engage with them and provide resources.”
The screening of “Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide in Utah” is scheduled for May 9, at 6 p.m. in the Jim Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library. For more information, visit Connect’s website, connectsummitcounty.org.
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